Wednesday, February 25, 2009

'Define the Meaning' gangbang #4

Define the Meaning sent me another round of albums to review. This batch was a little less interesting, although I do dig Defeater's joint. Feel free to let me know if I sound like a twat, ya dig?

Defeater – Travels


Blistering, passionate, and highly literate hardcore that falls somewhere between Have Heart, Crime in Stereo, and This is Hell, Defeater’s Travels is a disarming record on every level – the rockers will grind your bones, the lyrics go way beyond “you abuse us / we will fight!” hardcore clich├ęs, and that Saddle Creek-style acoustic surprise in the countdown between “Prophet in Plain Clothes” and “Carrying Weight” is both random and awesome. Defeater lives up to their name; these jams outpace lesser stompers by miles. Travels rarely lets up and never disappoints. Overall, a great ass-kicker.


Liquid Limbs – Orquid


This Tool-loving twosome shares not only Maynard James Keenan’s fondness for choir crooning and metal shredding, but his dumb/absurd sense of humor as well. Orquid (the cover features orchids and a squid, ya see) often settles for sub-par Puscifer jokes and even weaker Undertow rips. The lyrics will occasionally garner a chuckle – what is “the virgin kamikaze prize?” Is it bad? Closing cut “Whole Universe” attempts to contemplate all of existence, which provokes vocalist/guitarist Kevin Nowak to scream “holy fuck!” a lot. These aren’t the smartest songs out there, and the lack of band members limits the instrumentation a bit. For a hard-rocking, grungy duo, you’re better off checking out Big Business.


The Motorcycle Industry – Electric Education


“Let’s spend some time on the Internet / tell the message board kids what they already know,” goes one memorably snarky line from “Lesson One,” the opening track from The Motorcycle Industry’s Electric Foundation. Believe me, the record’s got more of ’em, operating a mildly dorky space left vacant by Harvey Danger. The acoustic guitars and keys’ prominence gives the songs a more indie rock vibe, but frontman John Langan uses uncomplicatedly catchy pop punk hooks to get his points across. If you’re reading Define the Meaning (and if not, what the eff, bra?), then chances are you’ll dig the topics: shitty kids at shows, colored vinyl, killing time at parks, and drunk roommates.


The Number 12 Looks Like You – Worse Than Alone


I’m sure Worse Than Alone will get props for the barrage of time changes and dissonance, but it lacks cohesion. The record violently shifts from prog to thrash on a dime, which could be great if there was any attempt to blend the two. As is, I hear a handful of decent ideas (the first half of “To Catch a Tiger”) and a handful of stupid ones (the second of half of “To Catch a Tiger”). “Given Life” has some sweet finger-tapping, but for like one second. The Number 12 Looks Like You gets points for having solid technical skills, but loses twice as many for having no got-damn sense at all.


Shirock – Everything Burns


Shirock occasionally aims for Paramore’s adrenaline-fueled pop rock and The Hush Sound’s lush guy/girl pop classicism, but more often they come off as ham-fisted as The Fray. Co-vocalists Chuck and Pap Shirock have pretty voices and sound great together, even if Charles does slur a bit too obnoxiously at times, but that doesn’t save the over-the-top stadium band production or limp songwriting. And without any clear cut hooks, these songs won’t even qualify as guilty pleasures. This will be your summer jam if you love teen dramas.


Sugarhigh – Box Office Poison


In what I super hope is an Empire Records reference, Sugarhigh offers us listeners Box Office Poison, an awfully amateurish EP of pop punk tunes. The songs don’t stray too far from sunny ’90s Cali-punk. It’s kind of hard to hate something this bouncy, although the recording quality is so rough I almost don’t believe it was done in a studio. The cymbals on “Quickest Way Outta Town” all have the same shrill, hollow sound, forcing me to think that some of these drum parts were programmed with an old keyboard. Lyrical clunkers like “I wish that I could tell you / that you’re important to me / but you’re not” don’t help either. Still, though, it’s pop punk! Let’s have some fun!


Tall Ships – Voyages


Ah God. Ah Jesus no. Sweet Piss Christ no. Voyages’ lyrics sheet is like one long, directionless rant. Tall Ships frontman Brett Dierolf notes that “everything in sight has gone dim, and the only thing I’m able to see is illuminated by starlight.” Ergo, he must “search for the answers to questions… of everything. But all to no avail.” Regardless, “I open up my eyes and see again. See what this all means.” However, “I cannot comprehend. What is all of this?” Therefore, who gives a shit? If the backbeat is your bottom line, then Tall Ships will get you by, but I swear I’ve heard these kinds of rants from homeless guys bumming around Market East station.


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